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Assistant treasurer racks up AU$2,000-a-month internet bill footed by taxpayers

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(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

Gaffe-prone Australian Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert is being scrutinised again after charging taxpayers more than AU$2,000 a month for his home internet bills.

Robert was only returned to the federal frontbench a few weeks ago, after he was sacked in 2016 over a trip to China for a mining company he was financially linked with.

But now, the federal government is scrutinising his AU$90-a-day home internet bills, which are dramatically higher than those of all other MPs.

“I’ve asked the special minister of state to report back to me,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.

“Once I’ve heard from the special minister of state, then we’ll take the next step.

“I think [voters would] want an explanation, and that’s why I’ve asked for one.”

Robert’s May bill alone totalled AU$2,832, while the vast majority of other MPs spent under AU$300 a month, and most about AU$100 a month.

Parliamentary expense records in the three months to May show Robert spent more than AU$2,000 a month on average for his Gold Coast residence.

The Queensland Liberal MP told Fairfax Media that connectivity issues were responsible for the high charges, because he had to use a wireless service as cheaper connections were unavailable when the service was installed.

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Your tax dollars at work

“I went and checked my most recent reports; it’s about AU$100 a month,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

“There is no doubt that Stuart Robert is a very controversial figure, and that controversy seems to follow him.”

Robert last week confused debt and deficit in a TV interview, and was caught taking a selfie when the interview began.

Labor MP Graham Perrett, who pays less than AU$100 for an unlimited internet deal, said it’s “bizarre” that the assistant treasurer can’t do better.

“Any normal person would be making a call to their internet provider to work out what’s going on,” he told Sky News on Friday.

The assistant treasurer said he racked up a high bill in May because he used 300 gigabytes of data, so he had to pay for extra data after exceeding his 50GB limit.

Robert has been charging taxpayers more than AU$1,000 per month for data at his home since 2016.

“My family home is located a significant distance from the telephone exchange, resulting in poor broadband internet connectivity,” Robert said in a statement late on Friday afternoon.

“At the time, a 4G home Wi-Fi internet connection was the only way to receive reliable and stable internet access

“My internet, like many in semi-rural areas, was previously unreliable, which interfered with my ability to perform my parliamentary and ministerial duties.”

The NBN’s rollout map shows building has begun in the Gold Coast, where the assistant treasurer’s electoral office and postal address is located.

Robert confirmed that he has an NBN installation appointment booked.

“When installed, this will result in an immediate drop in costs to a level similar to other parliamentarians.”

The treatment of Robert has contrasted sharply with the attitude of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who in 2014, when he was Communications Minister and had responsibility for the National Broadband Network, famously roused on a member of the public who complained about a lack of fixed-line broadband.

“Just curious:- if connectivity was so vital to you why did you buy a house where there was no broadband available?” Turnbull tweeted at the time.

Speaking in June 2016, disgraced former Deputy Prime Minsiter Barnaby Joyce claimed that internet speeds of 25Mbps were good enough for Australians living in regional and remote parts of the nation.

A week earlier, then Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne mirrored the same sentiment.

“They simply didn’t need the speeds that Labor was promising,” Pyne said at the time.

This week, NBN revealed that more than 1,500 of its fixed-wireless cells had at least one service downloading more than 1TB of data during the month of May.

Despite this, NBN said in response to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice that it had forecast to have less than 1.4 percent of fixed-wireless users on the 100/40Mbps speed tier by 2022, before the company ripped up plans to offer such services.

As the national broadband wholesaler looks to end its discount at the end of this month that attempted to move users from lower speeds up to 50Mbps plans, retailer Aussie Broadband told ZDNet that ISPs will need to choose between offering high- or low-speed tiers, as they won’t be able to do both.

“Aussie has chosen to play in the higher end of the market using the new bundled offering exclusively, as it provides sufficient CVC capacity to ensure a good experience for customers,” Aussie Broadband MD Phillip Britt told ZDNet on Thursday.

“In our view, it will not be possible for providers offering a service under AU$55 a month floor price and an unlimited offering under AU$69 using the bundles.

“Providers below this price point will most likely be short-changing their customers on the CVC bandwidth provisioned.”

With AAP

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Street Legal 2017 BAC Mono lands at auction

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Some sports cars are made for comfort and cruising long distances, and some are more built for days spent at the track. The BAC Mono certainly falls into the second category. It’s a track day god and one of the highest performance single-seat cars you could ever own. The coolest part of the BAC Mono, in this case, is that it is registered and legal to drive on the streets in the US.

The car is finished in white with a red wrap over the top and a black interior. The seat appears to be done in leather and the car has an open cockpit complete with a digital steering wheel that looks straight out of an F1 car. The car up for auction has only 3,000 miles on the odometer.

The Carfax report shows no accidents, and it features 17-inch wheels and AP Racing brakes. The Williams harness inside the cockpit is FIA approved. The car was constructed in England and then assembled in the US. The seller is a dealership and says that the only modifications to the car are a red wrap over white paint. The car was originally orange.

It does have aftermarket stickers on the sides and a GoPro mount above the seat for recording track day festivities. Power for all BAC Mono cars comes from a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder that makes 280 horsepower and 207 pound-foot of torque. The engine is from Ford and was modified by Cosworth. Power goes to the rear wheels via a 6-speed sequential transmission shifted with paddles behind the steering wheel.

The AP Racing calipers squeeze carbon ceramic brakes. The car appears to be ready for the track or streets. It’s sure to be one of the fastest rides at the track day. The car has three days to go at cars&bids and is at $85,500 right now.

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2022 Acura MDX Type S revealed as Acura heads to Pikes Peak

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The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb is going on soon as automakers and racers from around the world converge on Colorado Springs to race up the mountain. Among the many automakers participating in the event for 2021 is Acura. The automaker has revealed the 2022 MDX Type S as the tow vehicle for the Acura race team.

Acura has confirmed that it’s entering four different racecars into the 99th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb that are all going to be driven by the Acura R&D engineers. All four of the vehicles are production-based and will race up the mountain on June 27, taking on the challenging 12.42-mile 156-turn mountain course.

The hill climb is one of the most dangerous races that automakers can participate in as cars have been destroyed and participants have been killed during the event over the years. It’s not drivers in cars that face the most danger during the race. Motorcyclists are much more likely to die during the event. The 2022 MDX Type S is being used to tow one of the TLX Type S cars from the team shop in Bremen, Ohio, to Pike’s Peak, Colorado. The SUV will also be used to support the Accurate team during the competition.

The MDX Type S is a high-performance version of the company’s SUV featuring a turbocharged engine. The vehicle is the first Acura SUV to wear the Type S badge and is the fastest and most powerful SUV Acura has ever built. It will go on sale later this year. For now, Acura is mum on any performance specifications for the MDX Type S.

Acura has historically done well at the hill climb and currently holds the hybrid class record set last year by driver James Robinson in the “Time Attack” Acura NSX at 10:48.094. Acura also holds the open division record at 9:24.433, set by Peter Cunningham driving the Acura TLX GT racing car.

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Toyota foils leakers by offering an official image of the 2022 Tundra

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Earlier this week, leaked images were going around claiming to show the next generation 2022 Toyota Tundra. Automakers never like leaks, and often they simply deny that the images are of their vehicle or ignore the leak altogether. However, Toyota used a different tactic when images of its 2022 Tundra leaked, choosing to release an official image of the truck.

2022 Tundra TRD Pro

With Toyota’s move, talk of the 2022 Tundra has moved from the leaked images to Toyota’s official image. However, it’s worth noting that Toyota only offered a single image of the TRD Pro version of the Tundra and offered no details on the truck. Last month, SlashGear posted a review of the 2021 Tundra TRD Pro, highlighting that it was the last hurrah for the current generation of the truck.

However, it does offer a nice opportunity for us to compare the exterior of the 2021 model to the 2022 model. What we see is significant changes on the exterior of the truck. While the overall profile remains virtually the same, the 2022 has a completely new front end that closely resembles the style used on the Tacoma and 4Runner SUV. That means a large black grille with hexagonal openings and bulky Toyota branding on the grille.

It’s unclear if non-TRD Pro versions will have the same front-end treatment. Another interesting tidbit that is easily seen from the official Toyota photograph is that the truck is equipped with an LED light bar underneath the Toyota logo in the grill and what appear to be LEDs underneath the grill on the front black portion of the bumper. The headlights are much smaller and appear to be LED.

2021 Tundra TRD Pro

The truck has modest black fender extensions and rolls on very attractive black wheels. We also note that the truck has integrated sidesteps to make it easier to get in and out. Unfortunately, there’s no indication of what changes might have been made to the interior or under the hood of the truck at this time.

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